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It sounds weird, doesn't it? Right now, the big HDTV brands are Samsung, Sony, Vizio, Panasonic, and LG. Google makes software, Microsoft generally sticks to computers, and Apple, well let's face it, Apple has not had a lot of success in the TV department. So, with five dominant brands that are doing just fine, why would Apple, Microsoft, and Google, companies that are mostly known for smartphones or PCs, be able to stake any claim in the HDTV market? Ironically, the reason you may think of as why they won't be successful may very well be the reason they will be successful, and that is their software.

A recent study by Retrevo shows that HDTV makers are having a hard time differentiating themselves and their products from their competitors and their products. Retrevo's product analysis engine found that the average rating by 20,000 User Reviews for approximately 250 TVs were within six percentage points of each other. Whereas the brand name of a TV used to be enough to differentiate one from another, it's not anymore. Even new display technology will not be enough because once one TV gets it, they all will. So, if it's not about the hardware then what else can change?

"In addition to integrating the TV in the home tech ecosystem, it will be the software or 'smarts' along with the content offerings that will differentiate TVs and move one of them to the top of the living room technology stack."

The secret is not just content. Every time someone points out the failures of Google TV and Apple TV, it goes back to content. 'Why would I pay for a TV service with limited content when I can get it cheaper from somewhere else and with more content?' The secret is the very thing that has made smartphones so amazingly popular, and that is software. People want smartphones; people want smartTVs.

Imagine if the power of software like Siri and Kinect could be used while watching TV? Or imagine if an iOS or Android tablet could be used to interact with your TV? On the content side of things, what if there were specific iOS or Android apps designed for your TV just as there are some designed specifically for a tablet? No longer will TV be just about how to organize channels and content, but how to provide content that fits your needs and wants.

And really, why shouldn't these companies be able to take television to the next level? They all took phones and made them smart, why not do the same thing with TVs? As Retrevo's report brings out, "it will be the software or 'smarts' along with the content offerings that will differentiate TVs and move one of them to the top of the living room technology stack." The secret is content along with the software and ecosystem. The key, then, is to bring it all together in one connected package.

Yes, Apple TV has content; yes, Apple's ecosystem has apps; yes, Apple's software includes Siri, but none of that matters in the TV realm when it's all on separate devices. Apple TV (or iTV) will only be successful if Apple brings it all together - an Apple-created TV with content, apps, and Siri. The same thing goes for Microsoft, though they're light-years ahead of Apple on this one. I mean, Xbox Live (which integrates Microsoft's Windows software UI) already has content along with Kinect. A Microsoft TV is the next logical step. Google focused too much on content and let Apple dominate how the smartTV should be organized and marketed. No one wants to browse the web on their TV. They want to watch TV on their TV. Google, find a way to leverage the power of Android on a TV.

Current TV and cable providers already supply content. What's missing is the "smarts", the ecosystem and the software, to make everything work together. This may not all come together at CES this year, but expect the battle for your living room to take a more dominate position soon.

Source: Retrevo; Images: Retrevo


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